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The Word Journeys Book Blow-Out Sale: 9 Titles from Robert Yehling

This is one of my favorite times of the year. Kids are in school, visitors have left Southern California, the ocean and sun are warm… and tis the season for writing and writers conference.

On Oct. 2, Crawl of Fame, the memoir I co-wrote with Ironman Triathlon Hall of Famer and lifelong friend Julie Moss, releases to bookstores and online booksellers throughout North America. Published by Pegasus Books, Crawl of Fame is the remarkable story of a young woman’s unlikely crawl to instant fame, how her courageous performance at the 1982 Ironman elevated triathlon to world sport status, and how she’s empowered women and men, girls and boys since.

To celebrate the release of Crawl of Fame, welcome to the Word Journeys Fall Book Blow-Out! The perfect time to grab new reads for yourself, and load up on holiday gifts for others. Between now and October 15, we’re offering substantial buy-direct discounts on nine backlist titles, signed and inscribed by me as you’d like.

How the sale works:

  • Choose your book(s), contact us (bobyehling@gmail.com or through WordPress) and pay via check (made to Word Journeys, Inc., sent to 2517 Via Naranja, Carlsbad, CA 92010) or PayPal (at the above email address).
  • Indicate if you’d like your book(s) signed.
  • We’ll ship immediately. Expect your book within 5-7 days of order.
  • If you buy 3 or more books, take an additional 10% off the sales prices.
  • Add $3 to ship 1 book, $5 for 2-3 books, and $7 for 4 or more books.
  • Enjoy your bounty!

Here are the titles:

Voices: The novel about rock music legend Tom Timoreaux, his rising star daughter — and emergence of his lost love-child, set to the backbeat of the past 50 years of rock and roll. Nominated for the Independent Publishers Book Award. 5-star ratings from Amazon. Regular price: $18.95. Sale: $12.00

Just Add Water: Biography of superstar surfer Clay Marzo, who lives with autism. Clay’s inspirational story of becoming one of the world’s greatest surfers, was a finalist for the Dollie Gray Literature Award. Regular price: $16.95. Sale: $12.00

When We Were The Boys: The memoir of rock star, singer-songwriter-guitarist and award-winning film producer Stevie Salas. This coming-of-age story focuses on Stevie’s turn as Rod Stewart’s lead guitarist on the 1988 Out of Order Tour — and how it launched his great career. Regular price: $17.95. Sale: $12.00.

Beyond ADHD: Written with Canadian ADHD expert Jeff Emmerson, Beyond ADHD looks at the many deeper causes of our diminishing attention span, the current rush to diagnose as ADHD and treat it with powerful drugs — and numerous ways to change lifestyles and embrace attention-growing attitudes and activities. Endorsed by Dr. Allen Frances, mental and behavioral health expert and chair of the DSM-IV committee. Hardcover. Regular price: $35.00. Sale: $25.00

Writes of Life: Using Personal Experiences in Everything You Write: Winner of the Independent Publishers Book Award, this book is for writers, students, educators, and anyone using their own stories in essays, journals, fiction, memoir, poetry… anything you write. Features 80 exercises. Regular price: $12.95. Sale: $10.00

The Write Time: 366 Exercises to Fulfill Your Writing Life: “The best writing exercise book on the market,” Poets & Writers said. Every day, a new exercise to stretch your writing muscles, explore new genres, and refine your skills. For authors, journalists, casual writers, educators and students alike. Features motivational quotes from authors and much more. Regular price: $16.95. Sale: $12.00

For lovers of poetry, lyric and essay, we also bring three poetry-essay titles: Shades of Green, Coyotes in Broad Daylight, and Backroad Melodies. All feature more than 60 new poems and essays, with elements of love, nature, relationship, ecology, music, the deep woods and the open road. More than 30 of my poems also appeared in journals. Regular price for each: $12.00. Sale: $10.00




We invite you to jump in, get some holiday shopping done early, find something for yourself to read and enjoy, and indulge in the Word Journeys Book Blow-Out !

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The Write Time: Feeding your Writing Needs Over the Holidays

Welcome to the 2015 Holiday Season … and Launch Day!TWT_WebCov

Today is the release of the second edition of The Write Time: 366 Exercises to Fulfill Your Writing Life, published by Open Books Press out of Bloomington, IN. Since it initially released, it has been used as a teaching tool in dozens of high schools and colleges. Of equal importance, it sits on the shelves of writers ranging from multiple book authors to those writing for fun. Now, we’ve brought in 20 new exercises, as well as fresh photos and a new foreword, to go with the other 346 exercises in the book.

For me, the beauty of this book is its diversity and variety. Since I was young, I’ve kept journals, with the specific intent of writing about something different every day. I believe that diverse writing, along with good reading, observation and life experience, builds our voices and fluency as writers faster than anything. When my book or editing clients say, “You can write about anything! How do you do that?” my answer is the same: “By many years of writing about different things and experimenting daily.”

That is why I created The Write Time — to present a sweeping approach to writing about the subjects that interest you, and trying new forms in the process. Between that, the stories embedded within the exercises, motivational and creativity quotes from authors and brilliant minds, and listings of 125 dynamic writing websites, I’m confident in stating that The Write Time goes well beyond typical writing prompts and exercise books. In fact, you won’t find another that offers such a rich experience.2015-12-01 06.23.33 2015-12-01 06.24.09

For The Write Time, I cobbled together writing exercises developed from the past 15 years of teaching at conferences, high schools, retreats and colleges, gave them stories, and brought them together. Every genre and type of writing is covered, from fiction to essay, songwriting to poetry, fantasy to literary narrative non-fiction. Whether you journal, write poetry or songs, novels or essays, short stories or major papers, The Write Time will be a valuable asset.

The other thing — you’ll never have writer’s block again. All you need to do is open the book to the date, or any random page, and it won’t take long for your words to flow. “It serves as a invocation to come sit at the shore of new creativity, take up your ink-cup, drink plentifully, and be refreshed by the waters of a new day, all intentionally assembled by a fellow writer, reader and lover of literature,” wrote Andres Torres, advanced placement teacher at Minooka (IL) Community High School, in the Foreword.

The Write Time is available through all bookstores, Amazon.com, online booksellers, and on the Open Books site. Or, if you’d like an autographed copy for a holiday gift for yourself, or writers among family and friends, contact me and we’ll get one to you.

Finally, to whet your taste buds, the exercise for December 1:

All complete stories arrive at resolution. We entered the story with characters departing from an opening situation. We followed them as they made their way through the world you created for them, enjoying the motives, conflicts, twists, surprises, realizations, discoveries, complications and sub-plots along the way.

Now, we’re ready for resolution. How will your story end?

Write the ending to your story — no matter where you are right now. The resolution can lead to either a predictable, surprising, or twist ending; your call. Whatever the case, make the ending solid and convincing. Refine it over and over. Then, use it as a compass to guide you through the rest of the story.

(Please let us know how you like The Write Time by reviewing it on Amazon and Goodreads).





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Why Back Stories Matter (part 2)

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Part One of Why Back Stories Matter appeared on the 366Writing blog. In part two, we look at the specific reasons people love to hear the stories behind the story – and I share a few as well from my newest collection of essays and poetry, Backroad Melodies, which will be released on Summer Solstice, June 21.)

Poring through some of 700 pieces of research at Skywalker Ranch for the book Blockbusting!

Poring through some of 700 pieces of research at Skywalker Ranch for the book Blockbusting!

WHEN WRITING BOOKS, authors spend months or even years pulling together backstory. Novelists must know the ins and outs of their characters, and their characters’ lives, loves and tendencies, before committing the first sentence to paper (or screen). Non-fiction authors must track down all available background information on their human subjects or central topics in order to present their material. In both cases, extensive research precedes any writing. It’s quite normal for an author to pore through hundreds of source materials (books, articles, papers, videos, transcripts, etc.) before writing a manuscript.On top of that, fiction writers invariably pull nuggets of experience or perception from their own lives, and weave them into their characters, plots, or subtext.

The final books that reach bookshelves, online stores, and our admiring eyes compare favorably to icebergs: ten percent of the research and raw material makes it into print. Maybe ten percent of that is character, subject or topical backstory woven into the fabric of the narrative.

As for the other ninety percent? Many writers like to entomb their source and research material into cardboard file boxes or backup drives, never to see the light of day again. As for me? I want to know the backstories, and I want to share them. For instance, in my novel Voice Lessons, I wove nearly a hundred personal anecdotes into the characters, events, lyrics, concerts, plot and subtext – not to mention the prose that took flame from research that included more than two hundred books and articles, two hundred CDs and another hundred DVDs. Will you know which anecdotes are from my life? Not unless you know me, well. Or unless I tell you. Behind each anecdote is another story, the agglomeration of experiences that created it. We could go on forever.

Which is the point: to give readers the experiences that shaped the wonderful experience they just had in reading a book. That’s why fan clubs exist. That’s why we comb through materials in all shapes and forms to find interviews, histories, biographies and reminiscences that add context, shape and perspective to what we just read. When we learn these back or side stories, lights switch on in our heads. Recognition parts our consciousness like Moses finding his groove on the Red Sea. “A-ha!” moments of realization break into smiles across our faces, accompanied by a warm, tingling feeling inside. Suddenly, we know more about what makes the author tick, what prompted him or her to write that passage in that way, or to drop in that particularly amazing detail. We feel good because we know more. Acquired and perceived knowledge always feels good.

51kzcyubVNL._SY346_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_51S4MUUXEQL._SY346_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_  Two of the best novels I’ve read in recent years – which I happened to read back-to-back in Spring 2013 – were Fobbit, by David Abrams, and Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter. These two men were among four panelists at a Los Angeles Times Festival of Books discussion entitled, “Fiction at a Sideways Glance.” Well, as this piece might indicate, I’m going to be the moth drawn to any writing forum that looks at the craft from a different angle. Both men were engaging and insightful, their shared experiences delighting the capacity crowd. It so happens, too, that Fobbit and Beautiful Ruins are two of the most talked about novels of 2013.

Each book offers a fiesta for backstory seekers: Fobbit draws from a journal Abrams kept while serving as a public affairs specialist in Iraq, thus offering both a comedic (sometimes hilarious) look at the war and a troubling, in-the-trenches perspective we saw or read about nightly during Vietnam – the tragedy and heartache that happens before medals are pinned on our great servicemen and women – but which was expunged from our awareness by the 21st century Pentagon. Dark comedy? Fobbit is one of the best. You won’t think the same about the war in Iraq, or war itself, after reading it. (We will have the pleasure of hearing from Abrams later this month in a Word Journeys Blog interview).

Beautiful Ruins is an exquisite story of a romantic spark between two people that stretches across fifty years of life, in all its ups and downs, set against three backdrops that the author painted with a combination of personal observation, experience and research: the early production Italian set of the epic Cleopatra (or, to be more specific, what went on between Liz and Dick); a tiny hamlet with Italy’s majestic Cinqueterre coast; and the playground of golden dreams and brass-knuckle realities known as Hollywood.

I am a glutton for good stories, and all great books are loaded with creation points that spider outward as far as you can follow. They are all truly silken threads.

Snowmelt descending down the South Fork of the Yuba River

Snowmelt descending down the South Fork of the Yuba River

BACK TO THE BACKROADS. The roads listed earlier anchor the overall backstory of Backroad Melodies. Many of the poems were written about or on them. Since I’ve opened a can of worms, and encouraged everyone to either seek out or share the stories behind the stories, here are a few from this collection:

• “A Day on the Rake”:  I took a day of silence during a long meditation retreat in Northern California (on MacNab Cypress Road), grabbed a rake, and spent an entire day working on a mile of paths that wound between hundreds of plant species and statues of deities representing all the world’s major religions. Truly energizing.

• “Birthing a New Day”: An experience from the inception of my relationship with Martha, at the base of Mount Palomar, in her backyard on Ushla Way, twenty miles from the nearest town. Years later, I can gladly report that very day feels like this poem.

• “Fossil Light”: Standing outside on a crystal clear midnight in February, temperature three degrees above zero, viewing the stars through the prism of their original conception. What we see twinkling today is the way they existed before modern civilization, before humanity … even before dinosaurs. Fossil light.

• “The Way Stones Tell Stories”: Sitting in the San Luis Rey riverbed during dry season, holding a stone, admiring its age and stoic presence. Every sentient being has its storytelling style; our job is to know how to listen, and what to listen for.

• “Morning Prayer”: Driving through Capitol Reef in Eastern Utah just as dawn erupted on the cliffs, canyons, domes and bridges of this monocline, known to geologists as the Waterpocket Fold. I feel Native American spirit and energy most profoundly in the Four Corners region … as on this morning.

• “Ghost Riding”: This could be subtitled, “the songs of trees on back roads.” When wires, lights and busy minds aren’t present, wind feels and sounds like ghosts while whispering through trees.

• “Tea Time”: Over a three-year period, I had the profound pleasure of walking next door occasionally and drinking tea with my friend and favorite poet, Gary Snyder. Few people are more conversant on so many different topics.

• “Four Pool Quartet”: On a hot, late September day in the Sierra Nevada foothills, one of my students asked if we could hold an outdoor class. You don’t have to ask me that question twice. We loaded up cars, and I took them to an out-of-the-way spot on the Yuba River, reachable only by driving a road you don’t want to think about in icy or snowy weather, then hiking down a trail steep enough to tax a bighorn sheep. We sat on giant flatrock, deposited when the Sierra Nevada range was formed five million years ago, and wrote and swam for two hours. (“Did you know this snow-fed, rock-strewn river has five or six different currents,” I told them, “only three of which you see above the surface?”) This poem was one of my two contributions for the day, written behind a back road, while sitting in a river pool.

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Guest Blog: My Journey As A Writer, by Dhyan Davis

Today begins a week that gives all teachers great cheer, yet produces a bittersweet feeling as well — Graduation Week. I’m delighted to know that summer break begins on Friday, but likewise, it’s time to say goodbye to students that have been as much a part of my life as I have been of theirs.

Blog guest author Dhyan Davis

One is Dhyan Davis, who graduates from Ananda College on Thursday. Early last year, I was brought onto the faculty to energize the writing program. In just over a year, we’ve turned it into a strong curriculum that can cover all genres with group and individual classes, and more than meets standards for freshmen through seniors. In one of those “timing + opportunity” moments, Dhyan was one of the first two students in the writing program — so he helped to build this curriculum by pushing me as much as I pushed him. In the meantime, his writing improved so much that it helped to create other changes in his life, the changes that merge with higher purpose and meaning. Watching this man transform has been a blessing of the highest order — and I’ve had an inner ringside seat as well, seeing everything evolve through his words.

Today, I’d like to pay tribute to Dhyan by posting his latest essay, “My Journey As a Writer,” on this blog. I hope you enjoy this piece as much as I did. To me, it speaks of what happens when writing and life purpose meet on an open road.


My Journey As a Writer

By Dhyan Davis

In life, there are countless paths we can explore, all of which provide another piece of life’s puzzle to our consciousness. Some paths expand our awareness to previously unseen depths. Others, however, close our hearts to life’s boundless gifts. Regardless of which path we choose, life offers just the right ingredients for lessons to be learned. Growth is inevitable. Whether our natural spiritual evolution is painful or painless, it’s up to us to choose our life’s direction wisely.

One path that has made a significant impact on my life’s direction has been writing.  My heart has finally found a platform for genuine expression, where an uninterrupted flow can produce poetic prose. The written word has expanded my life’s perspective, allowing me to live more wholly in the present moment and to express my vision through essays, stories, and other forms of writing.

Ananda College offered me the tools necessary to mold and shape my ideas into golden nuggets of self-expression. Since my arrival, every writing class encouraged me to drive my focus inwardly, extracting my creative jewels so they may be shared with others.

My development as a writer has been long and arduous, whereas, I’ve always had a knack for verbal communication. Considering I’m naturally an extrovert, my understanding easily expands as I express my feelings verbally. If a particular conversation strikes my interest, I simply allow my intuitive feelings to guide my thoughts and speech. Bob, the creative writing director, insisted from the very beginning that my writing voice was no different than my speaking voice. He often said that my written words should be in sync with my verbal flow; I should hear myself on paper. To improve my writing, he said, I simply needed to transfer my speaking flow to writing. Both writing and speaking require sensitive attunement to the subtle messages of intuition. Writing, however, draws my attention more deeply to my core, simply because it requires reflection and personal exploration, which are both inward processes.

Interiorizing my mind benefits both yoga practice and, of course, writing. From the very first class offered in spring 2011, I’ve struggled immensely with developing my writing voice. I knew it was essential for genuine, accurate self-expression, though I often found my ideas scatter when I sat to write. Every assignment was not only stretching my analytical reason, but also my ability to articulate subtle, spiritual realizations to others. Gradually, my ability to hear my inner voice deepened while my potential to express myself sharpened.

The more I write, the more my thoughts become organized, making my written and spoken word more coherent and fluid. A prime example of this occurred just a couple weeks ago. A few students, some faculty members and I visited Ananda College’s future campus near Portland, Oregon. We hosted an open house for prospective students. Both faculty and students were asked to talk about their classes and experiences at the college. Though I didn’t prepare my speech beforehand, my intention was to speak from my heart and to relate my honest experience. When I was called to center stage, my heart raced and my palms moistened. What will I say? How will I say it? As soon as I looked into the audience, however, words flowed effortlessly as if I was reading from cue cards. My thoughts were crisp, clear, and lucid with insight, depth, and heartfelt honesty. When I finished and sat back down, I realized I spoke in the voice I’d labored to cultivate in writing. Writing proved in that moment to be the chisel to which my ideas are shaped into the perfect masterpiece. A clear mind is essential for coherence, whether expressed verbally or on paper.

Within the past year and a half, I’ve taken writing much more seriously; I have now seen its benefits. Since then, my entire vision has been pleasantly rearranged to view life more deeply. Every day, I gazed upon typically labeled mundane experiences with a renewed curiosity. How can this instance illustrate a spiritual truth? I would constantly stay alert throughout the day, seeking out new material for my writing assignments. Nothing was taken for granted; everything offered a message to be heard. Ideas for new, insightful papers flooded my consciousness, inspiring me to no end.

An example of this occurred when Bob took his class on a field trip to the Yuba River. As I turned tranquil from the river’s roar, I realized how symbolic this riverbed is to the path of yoga and spiritual liberation. The river (our subtle energies) continuously flows through many treacherous gullies (delusion), relentless seeking union with the ocean (God). Though only one example, there has been many instances where my observations of day-to-day life has sprouted into spiritually relevant material. Writing has taught me to keep a keen awareness so nothing is overlooked; everything is placed into a deeper context.

Life is filled with boundless wonders. Whenever my heart taps into the creative flow, some of life’s mysteries lose their veil. The more I ponder the depths of yoga, the more writing plays a critical role in organizing, integrating, and expressing my realizations. Writing demands that I dig deeper into my consciousness and excavate new insights. This, I’ve found, is the joy of writing. Since the writing process requires deep introspection, I find myself becoming calmer and more attuned to my heart’s song. Where there’s calmness, there’s also clarity of mind and purity of thought. These are all necessary not only for good writing, but for a healthy and fulfilling life.

I’ve always wondered what distinguishes a bona fide writer from a non-writer. Does a writer possess an inborn talent that only a few are blessed with? Maybe so, but I highly doubt that’s all there is to the story. Everyone has an inner voice that can inspire and uplift others. Creativity, insight, and lucid self-expression are inherent in everyone, but realized by few. Within the past year and a half, I went from being blind to having 20/20 vision. Before I started taking classes with Bob, my writing “tool bag” lacked concrete methods for professional grade writing. In those preliminary weeks, I thought my case was hopeless; that I would never be able to express my inner depth outwardly through writing. After time, however, the advice Bob continually offered kept pushing me towards refining my approach.

As a sculpture isn’t born overnight, the skill of writing requires patience, endurance, and a whole lot of energy. Some people simply aren’t interested in exerting the necessary time and energy for the laborious writing process. Editing, proof-reading, and re-writing require dedication and discipline, which most people generally lack in the overall sense. I deeply feel I have reached a point in my writing career where I’m ready to embrace these demands. This, to me, places me in professional magnetism simply because I’m willing to endure the hardship, embrace the expansions, and continually exert an ever-increasing amount of energy towards attaining literary greatness.

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Living the Writing Teacher’s Dream

One of the many advantages of teaching at a small college concerns the amount of one-on-one time we enjoy with our students. There is no amount of book study, assignments, online tutelage, lecturing or study groups that can equal the interaction between a caring teacher and a willing student.

With the creative writing program I’m helping to develop at Ananda College of Living Wisdom, we’ve ramped it up a step further  — individual courses for individual students.

It didn’t start out this way. The plan was to have group classroom study, followed by independent study sessions. However, when the roster came together for the 2011-12 school year, Dean of Academics Celia Alvarez realized that the students varied greatly in their writing experience, topical and genre interests, grade levels and approaches to learning. So she popped the question in an email the week before I returned to campus: “Can you create a separate course for each student?”

What a challenge — but what a joy. Two weeks into this rather maverick approach, I sit here buzzing over the spiritual and intellectual stimulation this has created. Not only does my versatility as a writing instructor receive the ultimate test, but it also brings into play all the books I’ve read, the different genres in which I’ve written, and the various skills I’ve learned to inspire, motivate and help students (both scholastic and professional writers) gather their thoughts, find the structure that suits them best, trust their instincts and voices, and lay one word out in front of another. For instance, in this term alone, assigned books include all-time favorites like Annie Dillard’s masterful Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, The Portable Beat Reader anthology, Jack Kerouac’s On The Road,  Gary Snyder’s The Practice of the Wild, Coleman Barks’ The Illustrated Rumi, and new favorites like Susan Casey’s The Wave and Barbara Kingsolver’s Small Wonder, poignant essays she wrote right after 9/11.

The courses this fall are certainly varied. One is a study of the fabled Beat writers — all of whom had distinctly different styles, voices and works. We’re studying them as writers, not as readers — a far different approach that requires tapping into the Beat writers’ motivations, structures and voices as well as their words. Another is a freshman course that combines creative writing with instruction on developing and composing academic research papers. So that’s two courses in one.

Thanks to another student’s wishes, my poetic senses are being filled by teaching a poetry writing class with an emphasis on spiritually infused poets like Gibran, Hafiz, Rumi, Snyder, Yogananda, Khayyam, Sun-Tzu, Li-Po, Basho, Waldman and Tagore, along with Mary Oliver, David Whyte, Denise Levertov and a few other modern-day bards. The beauty of that course is that I finally get to utilize the book-length website I wrote in 2008,  Poetry Through the Ages, as a teaching tool (thousands of teachers and students throughout the country have sourced the website for its content and plethora of teaching suggestions, assignments and projects).

Enough already? Not so. My fourth writing course, an essay and narrative non-fiction class, involves the interweaving of personal story and experience into informational pieces (those who have worked with me at writers’ conferences and workshops know this course by different titles). And finally, I’ve brought a web content writing component into the social media class that I teach, with an emphasis on something every writer who builds a website should know up front: web and social media content writing is not a creative writing exercise. It is all about marketing and knowing what to write, how to use keywords, how to write posts and messages, and where to place them.

Put it all together, and it’s resulted in two weeks of gathering materials, writing syllabi, meeting with students, and already sharing some magical moments that can only be experienced with one-on-one learning. For example, my freshman student and I talked all about the way an ocean wave looks from the inside — when you’re being covered up in a tube ride while surfing, bodyboarding or bodysurfing.  Then he went off, wrote for 90 minutes about it and painted a beautiful wave (he’s also an artist). The next day, I sat with a senior — the young man who burns to write as much as Jack Kerouac did — and read him perhaps the longest sentence in modern literature, Kerouac’s 1,200-word riff in The Subterraneans that has the staccato pace and rip-roaring rhythm of a Charlie Parker be-bop jazz solo. The point? To demonstrate what stream-of-consciousness writing sounds like, which gives the budding writer of what it feels like to write so freely and openly.

How does it feel to be part of this very far-forward exercise (which, truth be told, has a lot of the simple charm of the one-room schoolhouse setting to it)? I feel like the most fortunate and privileged person on earth. I feel like the hundreds of workshops and classes I’ve given online, at retreats, conferences, workshops and libraries all feed this opportunity to help change and inform lives. I also feel like the 45 years since I started writing stories, and all the writing assignments, books, poems, essays, articles I’ve written and books I’ve read and edited come into play, right here, right now. It is the best mindset for teaching that I can think of: fully present, required to be fully present, with every skill or bit of knowledge that preceded this moment ready and available to be used as needed.

There’s so much more. Because of the uniqueness of what we’re doing with the creative writing program at Ananda College, I’ve decided to keep a journal log of the classes, what we discuss, reading materials, feelings, assignments and experiences, and post the highlights on my Scribd.com account every week. That will also include highlights of the students’ writing. It’s just something I want to throw out there as one person’s contribution to a greater educational process.

Bell’s ringing. Time to get back to class.




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Set Your Nets, Capture Your Moments: 10 Tips

To order The Write Time: 366 Exercises to Fulfill Your Writing Life

To order Writes of Life: Using Personal Experiences in Everything You Write

The rains poured down, flooding roads, soaking fields. Then they lifted—and a magical new world appeared on the steep forested hills of my property. Suddenly, eight streams rushed forth, the water pitching over waterfalls that, hours ago, were dry stones and bluff rock. The streams chattered loudly, their fluid voices rising over a land that, not a week before, was locked in a deep freeze.

I raced to my home office, grabbed a pen and notepad, ran up to the hillsides, and quickly scribbled out images. I rushed to describe the way the land looked and sounded as it happened, finding words to show the land’s arterial system coming alive in the dead of winter. I jotted images, scribbled a couple of stanzas, and fleshed out an inspired sentence or two. That was it.

The purpose: to collect raw material to use later. How will I use it? I have no idea, but there are plenty of options: a new poem; an essay; a scene description within a story or novel; an observation from a fictional character; for my next book on writing; a song lyric; maybe as part of a memoir twenty years from now. When I captured these images a few days ago, I never thought of putting them in a blog—but here they are.

Point is, I set my nets to capture the moment. I worry about the writing form later. By capturing the moment as it happens, I forever emblazon that experience on paper, which causes me to recall it vividly when I sit down to write a piece. It all feeds my purpose: to place my readers in the moment with everything I write.

As working writers, it is essential that we capture the moment — all the time. Personal experience provides the most authentic material for our stories, books, essays and poems, because we know it best. It teems with the resonance of being, requires complete presence, and often compels us to make decisions on the fly—all part of what drives characters in novels, for example. We need to become like newspaper reporters, ready for that next lead, “tip,” observation, piece of a dream, experience or recollection that can find a place into something we will write. The more we consciously practice “getting the news,” as we called it in my newspaper days, the better observers we become — and the more raw material we gather. It’s like mining for gold and storing away the nuggets for future use.

Setting your nets to capture life’s moments begins with discipline and commitment. Here are 10 tips on how to cast those nets and fill them up in your daily writing practice:

1. Set lots of nets. I have a journal in my bedroom, notebooks in the living room and office, tape recorders in both locations, and notepads in the kitchen and bathroom. My digital camera is always nearby. So is my phone — to record messages if I have no means of writing down a moment. These are my nets.

2. Cast widely. All you see, hear or do is the potential basis for a piece of writing. Record thoughts, observations, experiences, perceptions, conversations and dreams.

3. Don’t censor yourself. When you see something that captures your eye or fancy, write it down. Don’t grill it with your inner censor. In 99% of the cases, you don’t yet know how and where you will use this material—just that you want to have it available to you. Let it in.

4. Record at the speed of life. As a reporter, I often scribbled down interviewees’ comments as fast as they spoke. Only once in seven years was I accused of misquoting someone. I learned to be deadly accurate. Scribble down the moment as fast as you can while retaining enough legibility to read it. Try to write as it’s happening. Convey the speed of life.

5. Write in notes and images, not sentences. Unless inspired sentences or lines of poetry roll through you during the moment (which they sometimes do—recognize them for the gifts they are!), jot your notes in images and broken sentences. Use keywords and buzzwords; they will return you to the moment.

6. Sit and simmer … and circle back. After you’ve landed the “catch of the day,” sit with it for a few minutes, then circle back and add any images or observations you might have missed. Stay in the moment; don’t be reflective.

7. Organize your notes. Every week, I spend one to two hours gathering all the nets and decoding them, putting my scribble on the computer. I type rapidly, still not reflecting on the material. Then I put date, time and location on the entries.

8. Create a logbook. Gather your organized notes and create a logbook, whether paperless or in a binder. Along with your journal, these logbooks are the most important “research” materials you will keep long-term as a working writer.

9. Get back to your notes — soon. Within a day or two, return to your notes and see if something inspires you to write a poem, essay or vignette. Try to build out your observation in your journal. If nothing comes, don’t worry about it: The material will find its way into your work.

10. Keep casting. Never stop observing, fishing, seeking new moments or ways of looking at things. Allow these moments to visit you. When you set the intention to receive these moments, two things happen: a) Your mind becomes more creative and pliable, able to connect moments and convert them into fine sentences, paragraphs or stanzas; and b) The moments visit you in droves … liquid gold.

Cast your nets and turn every day into a life-gathering and experiencing mission. Then get it down on paper.

REMEMBER: The Write Time Writing Contest is now underway! $500 in cash prizes, plus publishing opportunities. Deadline is April 15. Check the Word Journeys Website – or the January 22 entry of this blog – for complete details.

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